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L.A. City Council OKs plan to close pot clinics

January 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The Los Angeles City Council has approved an ordinance that will close hundreds of pot dispensaries that have cropped up in recent years.Steve Wilson comes to one of at least 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles. The ordinance passed by the city council would eliminate most of them, including Wilson's dispensary, the Pure Life Alternative Wellness Center.

"They gave us an ordinance impossible to live with. It's impossible to react in the city and they forgot about the patients," said Yamileth Bolanos, a member of the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance.

"These people are giving medicine to people that need it, and you won't go to shut down Wal-Mart's pharmacies, so why shut down a place like this?" Wilson said.

The Los Angeles City Council has struggled for years to control the growth of marijuana dispensaries. The ordinance they passed on a 9-3 vote allows 137 registered dispensaries to stay in business if they comply.

Those that took advantage of a loophole in a moratorium would be put out of business, but the new law is restrictive.

For instance, any dispensary across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with, a residentially zoned lot would be banned. Operators say it forces them into industrial areas.

"The rules they have installed upon us are ones that are physically almost impossible to comply with," said Oliver Summers, another member of the Greater L.A. Collective Alliance.

"A good number of them are there illegally to begin with. They interpreted laws to their convenience," said L.A. Councilman Ed Reyes.

The president of the Collective Alliance says the new ordinance will only let six of those already registered dispensaries stay in business.

One of the three who voted against the new ordinance doesn't think it will help people who need marijuana.

"I don't think it solves the problem, and in many cases makes it worse. It'll be chaos out there," said L.A. Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

City Hall isn't done with the issue yet. By the end of this week, the marijuana cooperatives hope to be in court trying to stop the new law's enforcement.